In an exciting week in the NPL Football Academy season, we saw last minute winners, tremendous comebacks and some brilliant individual goals. We bring to you the #MatchweekEight review.
In the JOMA Division, Mickleover Sports convincingly beat Mossley 7-1 to extend their lead at the top of the table to four points. Jack Thatcher was in the goals again as he scored a brace, as did Taylor Smith. Sports sit in first place on 13 points and are the only team in the JOMA Division yet to lose a game. Stafford Rangers suffered their first defeat of the season after losing 5-3 away to Leek Town. Stafford will be disappointed after going 0-2 up in the first half, but a brilliant comeback from Leek Town, lead by Harry Bickerton’s hat trick, saw the home side run out the eventual 5-3 winners. After being plagued by bad weather and water logged pitches, Radcliffe got a bit of momentum going to their season after a 3-0 win against Belper Town. In just their third game of the season, a brace from Rhys Moseley helped Radcliffe to their second win of the campaign and moved them up to fifth place in the table. Witton Albion are another team struggling with the amount of games played this season. In their third game of the season Witton picked up their first points so far after a 2-1 victory against Carlton Town thanks to an Owen Wynne brace.
Just two games went ahead in the Sports Traider Division, the first being Skelmersdale United v Brighouse Town. The home side managed to grind out a 1-0 victory and increase their lead at the top of the table to four points. Widnes lost ground on Skelmersdale United at the business end of the Sports Traider Division table after dropping points at home to Radcliffe. The game looked to be finished and heading for a 2-1 Radcliffe win but a 90th minute equaliser from substitute Kyle Young made it 2-2 and earned the home side a point. Widnes remain in second place on 14 points, just four behind the leaders. The draw also saw Radcliffe pick up their first point of the season.
With six games going ahead in #MatchweekEight and a whole host of brilliant performances, there were a number of students staking their claim to be part of #TeamOfTheWeek. Well done to everyone nominated by their coaches and selected in the #TeamOfTheWeek and congratulations to Harry Bickerton, who’s hat trick against Stafford rangers earnt him the title of ‘Player of the Week’.
Another brilliant Highlights show this week, filled with goals, late game drama and a few upsets in the mix for good measure. Watch all the goals and match action from #MatchweekEight below.
The Game Review of the Week comes from a local Staffordshire derby between Leek Town and Stafford Rangers. Stafford looked to keep up their perfect start and make it four wins from four whereas Leek Town were in search of their second win of the campaign.
HAT TRICK HERO HARRY WINS IT FOR LEEK
In a tasty JOMA Division match-up, Leek Town hosted Stafford Rangers at the Northwood Stadium in Stoke.
The game started at a high tempo, with both teams looking to get a foot on the ball and dictate play. Leek Town enjoyed slightly more possession in the opening ten minutes but couldn’t make it worthwhile.
Stafford were first to draw blood in this closely contested game after Ethan Harris finished off a blistering counter attack for the visitors to go 0-1 up after 7-minutes. Leon McDonald was released down the right wing and showed off his blistering pace. He managed to dribble the ball all the way down the right flank and clip a wonderful ball into the middle for Harris to poke home on his second attempt. Leek Town 0-1 Stafford Rangers.
Leek didn’t seem disheartened by going behind and continued to knock the ball about and looked confident in possession. After some good footwork on the left touchline by Tom Williamson, he clipped the ball in behind the Stafford Rangers defence. looking for Charlie Lucy, who seemed to be in on goal, the Stafford Rangers defence had to act fast and clear the danger.
The away side continued to battle in the game and doubled their lead in the 10th minute. More good play on the right wing allowed Leon McDonald to cross into the Leek Town penalty area. This time he provided an inch-perfect cross to Oliver Jarvis, who towered above the Leek defence and headed home Stafford’s second goal in 10 minutes. Leek Town 0-2 Stafford Rangers.
Last time Leek Town found themselves 0-2 down early on in a game was their 0-8 defeat to Mickleover in #MatchweekFive, so their start to this fixture didn’t bode well for the home side. Fortunately for Leek they responded well by not letting their heads drop and continued to put Stafford under pressure. First a long range effort from Brandon Williams was spilled by the Stafford goalkeeper but was eventually dealt with and then a nice run down the right channel by Charlie Lucy allowed him to get to the by-line and cut the ball back to Harry Bickerton in acres of space on the edge of the Stafford box. His first time effort was perfectly placed in the bottom left hand corner and reduced the Stafford lead. Leek Town 1-2 Stafford Rangers.
Leek Town were level in the game just 3 minutes later thanks to a header from Lewis Watkins. A corner from the left hand side was whipped in by Charlie Lucy and was met by a thunderous header from Watkins. Leek Town 2-2 Stafford Rangers.
The home side had a golden opportunity to complete the comeback in the first half and be leading at the break. The ball was played forward to Mudassar Ahmed who latched on to a through ball and seemed to just have the keeper to beat. He poked the ball towards the goal but it rebounded off the bar and into the path of Harry Bickerton, who’s first time effort rolled wide of the post and Stafford were able to clear the ball.
HALF TIME: Leek Town 2-2 Stafford Rangers.
Just five minutes after the restart, Leek found themselves in front for the first time in the game. A free kick on the edge of the box taken by Lucy and his curling effort forced a save from the Stafford Rangers keeper. He was unable to hold the shot and spilled the ball into the path of Nathan Heath who nodded the ball home. Leek Town 3-2 Stafford Rangers.
Just before the 60th minute mark, Harry Bickerton increased Leek Town’s lead after scoring what can only be described as an absolute screamer. Bickerton took a touch from a throw in and turned one Stafford defender inside. He got his shot off from approximately 30-yards which swerved and dipped, finishing in the top left corner. Leek Town 4-2 Stafford Rangers.
Stafford Rangers were given a lifeline after 75 minutes when they were awarded a penalty. A long ball was played into the Leek penalty area and headed towards goal by Oliver Jarvis. The keeper came and claimed the ball but the referee deemed there to be a push in the back by a Leek Player and awarded a penalty. The Stafford rangers captain, Ethan Stubbs stepped up to take the penalty and blasted the spot kick home with authority. Leek Town 4-3 Stafford Rangers.
In a close game, tempers were flaring and the last 15 minutes were extremely competitive Leek trying to close out the victory and Stafford searching for an equaliser. It was Leek who would finish the game off after a brilliant run from Brandon Williams saw him brought down in the Stafford penalty after he was clearly tripped up. The referee pointed to the spot and awarded Leek the penalty and a chance to put the game to bed. Harry Bickerton was the man to take the penalty and made no mistake, putting home Leeks fifth and completing his hat trick in the process.
FULL TIME: LEEK TOWN 5-3 STAFFORD RANGERS